York-Adams League basketball preview: Experience making many teams optimistic

Thomas Kendziora
York Dispatch

The York-Adams League has long been competitive in basketball from top to bottom. Talent is spread out across schools big and small, as evidenced by the Division III runners-up winning the league girls’ tournament a season ago. And several squads have long histories of competing for district and state titles.

Each of the association’s six divisions has a slightly different story entering the 2022-23 season, but so many seem to share a common theme — reigning champions getting younger and a chasing pack full of returning talent.

Just look at Division I on the boys’ side. Red Lion, which went 13-1 to capture a title last year, is the only team not to return a league all-star. Both the Lions and runner-up Northeastern lost Co-Players of the Year in the division. And after only three games separated third from last place, every team in that pack looks better on paper.

Spring Grove's Ethan Glass, right, works to get around Northeastern's Evan Jennings during boys' basketball action at Northeastern High School in East Manchester Township, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. Northeastern would win the game 50-36. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Spring Grove, which finished in the cellar at 4-10 (6-15 overall), had one-point losses to Northeastern and Central York, plus another overtime loss to South Western. The Rockets, whose last winning season came in 2017, return all-star Ethan Glass and multiple other veterans as they look to take another step.

“We turned a corner and we learned how to win last year,” Spring Grove coach Ryan Eisenhart said, “and we’re gonna continue building that this year and going forward.”

York High was a young team in 2021-22 that also dropped some close games; the Bearcats (6-8 in D-I last year) are hopeful their returning experience will help turn those losses into wins. It’s a similar story at South Western (5-9). Central York and Dallastown (7-7) both return all-star seniors, while Northeastern and Red Lion have players accustomed to being part of success.

“All the teams are very similar,” South Western coach Chris Sager said. “A lot of teams are senior-laden … but all of the teams are so close together that I think the teams that execute at the end of games (will succeed). We were in a lot of games and we were just out-executed sometimes at the end.”

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The Division II boys’ standings were even tighter in 2021-22. West York was 11-1 in league play and Dover was 1-11, but five other teams finished between 7-5 and 5-7. Several of those squads, including league tournament finalist Eastern York, return multiple reigning all-stars. And New Oxford, dropped down from D-I, plans to be right in the mix as well. 

But West York, too, has plenty of returning pieces who’ve played together not only in at this level but ever since elementary school.

“We all trust each other,” Bulldogs senior David McGladrie said. “We trust that our teammates can make a shot because we’ve been playing with them for so long that we know they can do it.”

West York's David McGladrie drives past Eastern York's Brady Seitz during action at West York Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. The Bulldogs went on to win 44-29. Bill Kalina photo

Division III was more top-heavy and could continue to be so, with Player of the Year Luke Forjan returning for York Catholic and a trio of first team all-stars back at Littlestown. 

The league returns plenty of talent on the girls’ side, too. All five members of Division I’s first team are back this season, including Central York’s tandem of guard Bella Chimienti and forward Mackenzie Wright-Rawls. Dallastown loses the biggest producers from last year’s division winner but has a deep and capable core of upperclassmen. Red Lion was right behind them last year, and the likes of York High and Spring Grove have all-county upperclassmen leading the way.

Several Division II girls’ teams hope their returning talent can help them catch up to Eastern York; West York and York Suburban in particular have high expectations. The D-III top two of Delone Catholic and Bermudian Springs both have unanswered questions, which could open the door for York Catholic or someone else.

Central York's Mackenzie Wright-Rawls loses the ball driving against Dallastown's Maggie Groh, left, and Abby Jacobs in girls' basketball at Central Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. Central York came from behind, winning 45-42. Bill Kalina photo

So no matter where you look in the York-Adams League, you’ll find a basketball team excited and optimistic for the new season. Tipoff tournaments this weekend and next will provide many of those squads with important measuring sticks. The true tests will come in early division games, which are less than two weeks away in some cases.

The regular season may stretch into February, but these December results set a tone and tend to still prove all-important as the season comes to a close. And a wide range of teams believe their returning talent can help make the difference when it matters. Only time will tell who’s right.

“Those first few league games are very important,” Sager said. “One of our goals is to make the county playoffs, so you can’t get off to a bad start.”